20 Famous Musicians From South Dakota

South Dakota may not be the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of great musicians, but the state has produced some of the most talented and influential musicians of the past century.

From the country music of Buddy Red Bow to the soulful singing of Myron Lee, South Dakota has been a breeding ground for singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists of all genres.

Let’s explore some of the best musicians from South Dakota and the lasting impact that they have had on the music industry:

1. Haley Bonar

Haley Bonar is an indie folk singer-songwriter who has released several critically acclaimed albums over the past two decades.

Known for her introspective lyrics and haunting vocals, Bonar has won over fans around the world with her unique sound and artistic vision. One of the albums that gained popularity with her fans was ‘Last War’, which she released.

2. The Spill Canvas

Hailing from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, The Spill Canvas is an alternative rock band that gained a following with their emotive lyrics and anthemic tunes. With hits like “All Over You” and “Staplegunned,” The Spill Canvas continues to tour and captivate fans with their energetic live shows.

3. Jerry Burke

Jerry Burke was a fixture in the jazz scene for over four decades. He played with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, and his virtuosic piano playing helped establish South Dakota as a hub for jazz music in the Midwest.

4. The Kickback

The Kickback is an indie rock band known for their energetic live performances, thunderous bass tones, and catchy melodies. They released their debut album “Sorry All Over the Place” in 2015, which received critical acclaim and helped establish their reputation as a rising force in indie rock.

5. Judd Hoos

Judd Hoos is a rock band hailing from Sturgis, South Dakota. The band has been performing together since 2004 and has gained a loyal following in the Midwest.

They have released several albums and have made renditions of famous songs of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Their blend of country and rock has made them a favorite at music festivals and events across the region.

6. Paradise Fears

Paradise Fears is a pop rock band which gained popularity through social media, was an opening act for All Time Low and released their debut album “Yours Truly.”

They have since released several more albums and have toured extensively across the US. Their heartfelt lyrics and infectious hooks have made them a favorite among pop rock fans.

7. Shawn Colvin

A Grammy-Award winning artist because of her work,  Shawn Colvin is a country singer-songwriter who is known for her folk-inspired music and poignant lyrics that speak to the human experience. 

Colvin gained widespread recognition with her hit song “Sunny Came Home” in 1997, which won two Grammy Awards. She has continued to release critically acclaimed albums and collaborate with other artists throughout her career.

8. Scatter Their Own

Scatter Their Own is a musical duo consisting of Scotti Clifford and Juliana Brown Eyes-Clifford, both members of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Their music is a unique blend of rock, blues, and Native American influences, and their lyrics often focus on themes of social justice and environmentalism. 

9. Indigenous

Indigenous is a blues-rock band which makes music that combines traditional Native American sounds with the hard-hitting riffs of classic rock, creating a powerful and unique sound. Their track “Now That You’re Gone” reached number 22 in Billboard charts and has been featured in broadcast shows.

10. Sam Outlaw

A country singer-songwriter famed for his honky-tonk and Americana music, Sam Outlaw’s music is a blend of traditional country and Americana, with thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies. He has released songs and toured extensively, earning a reputation as a talented and dynamic performer.

11. Dorothy Provine

Dorothy Provine was an actress, singer, and dancer who was a popular performer in the 1950s and 60s. She is known for her comedic roles in films and television shows. Provine also had a successful singing career, some of her hits are “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune” and “Don’t Bring Lulu.”

12. EMA

EMA (Erika M. Anderson) is an indie rock musician born in South Dakota. Her music is characterized by its raw, experimental sound and introspective lyrics.

EMA has released several critically acclaimed albums, including “The Future’s Void” and “Exile in the Outer Ring.” She is also known for her powerful live performances and being the frontrunner of Gowns, an alternative rock band.

13. We All Have Hooks for Hands

We All Have Hooks for Hands was an indie rock band from Sioux Falls. They gained a following in the early 2000s with their unique sound, which combined elements of indie, pop, and rock. They are a lighthearted and creative band who released a few albums.

14. Cris Williamson

Cris Williamson is an iconic singer-songwriter who gained fame for her contributions to the feminist music movement of the 1970s. Her music often addressed social and political issues, and she is considered a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ music scene.

Williamson’s most famous album, “The Changer and the Changed,” is considered a classic in the women’s music genre.

15. Brulé

Brulé is a Native American music group that blends traditional Native American music with contemporary styles such as rock and pop. After incorporating AIRO (American Indian Rock Opera) into their band name, the group has gone on to release numerous albums, participate in various high-profile events, and receive multiple awards for their distinct music.

Brulé is known for their use of traditional instruments such as the flute and the drum, as well as their stunning live performances that incorporate dance troupes.

16. Bob Stewart

Bob Stewart was a jazz musician and educator who was known for his skill on the tuba. Stewart played with many famous jazz musicians over the course of his career, including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and Don Cherry.

Stewart’s innovative approach to playing the tuba helped to expand the instrument’s role in jazz music and cemented his status as a jazz legend.

17. Myron Floren

Myron Floren was an accordionist and television personality from South Dakota who gained fame as a regular performer on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” Floren was known for his virtuosic accordion playing and his charming personality, which endeared him to audiences around the world.

18. Boyd Raeburn

Boyd Raeburn was a jazz bandleader and saxophonist who was known for his innovative approach to music. Raeburn’s band was known for its use of unusual instruments and unconventional arrangements, and he is considered a pioneer in the development of bebop and cool jazz. 

19. Jess Thomas

Jess Thomas was an operatic tenor who achieved international acclaim for his powerful voice and dramatic performances. Thomas performed at many of the world’s most prestigious opera houses and worked with some of the most renowned conductors and composers of his time. 

He was known for his ability to convey deep emotion through his singing and his superb performance of Richard Wagner’s compositions.

20. Buddy Red Bow

Buddy Red Bow was a Native American singer who is considered a pioneer in the development of Native American country music. Red Bow’s music incorporated traditional Native American elements such as singing in Lakota and using traditional instruments like the flute and drum, as well as elements of mainstream country music. 

His music addressed important social issues facing Native Americans, and his songs remain popular and influential today.


South Dakota has produced many musical legends who have made significant contributions to various genres of music. From the pioneering Native American country music to the innovative jazz, these talented artists have helped to shape the landscape of American music.

These musicians have left an indelible mark on the music industry and continue to inspire new generations of musicians and music lovers alike.

Haley Bonar Featured Image (Top-Left) by: August Schwerdfeger, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Kickback Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Jifergan14, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Judd Hoos Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Larmanager, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Paradise Fears Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: WendyDay4Ever, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons